The Fourth Album Curse and Its Effect

Although some think it’s a myth, the fourth album curse is real for certain artists. For those who don’t know what the “curse” is, let us explain. 

Supposedly, around the fourth album artists lose their creative drive, which, according to fans, results in an underwhelming album. It “flops,” as they say, and usually doesn’t chart as well as previous releases. For our sake, we want to look at why some artists struggle with this and how some have overcome the curse.

Justin Timberlake- Man of the Woods

Fourth album Justin Timberlake
(Man of the Woods Album Artwork)

After releasing his widely successful album, The 20/20 Experience, Timberlake dropped his fourth album, Man of the Woods. Despite charting at number one on the Billboard 200, it was not received well by critics and some fans. It produced singles, “Filthy,” “Supplies,” and “Say Something,” which were not as popular as his past hits such as “Mirrors,” “Suit & Tie,” “SexyBack,” “Cry Me a River,” and more. It received a rating of 55 out of 100. We hope the Prince of Pop’s next album attains better reviews. 

Katy Perry – Witness

Katy Perry's fourth album
(Witness Album Artwork)

Again, this album debuted at number one on the Billboard 200, but critics and fans were not enamored with it. Her previous album, ‘Prism,’ was prosperous with tracks including “Dark Horse,” “Unconditionally,” and “Roar.” ‘Witness’ received 52 out of 100 and did not meet the expectations many fans had for Perry’s fourth album. However, after the release of her new single “Never Really Over,” there’s a chance that her upcoming album will make up for it. 

Lady Gaga – Joanne

Lady Gaga's fourth album Joanne
(Joanne Album Artwork)

When most people think of this album, the only song that comes to mind is “Million Reasons.” It reached number one on the Billboard 200 but received a 67 out of 100 from reviews. It was a different sound for Gaga and was not as popular as past albums with singles like “Applause,” “Born This Way,” “Poker Face,” and “Just Dance.” After, she came back for her pop throne with her stunning vocals on the A Star Is Born soundtrack. She is gearing up for her fifth album and we are ready for Momma Monster to deliver. 

Avril Lavigne – Goodbye Lullaby

Avril Lavinge's fourth album
(Goodbye Lullaby Album Artwork)

With only a score of 58 out of 100, Lavigne’s fourth album received mixed reviews. The lead single, “What the Hell” is the most popular song from the album but only charted at number thirteen. Her album peaked at number 4 on the Billboard 200 and she has since released two albums, proving that she’s the punk princess we all know her to be. 

Artists Who Have Beaten the Fourth Album Curse  

Taylor Swift – RED

With singles, “We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together,” “I Knew You Were Trouble,” and “22,” Swift’s fourth album is one of her best musically. Despite not winning the Grammy for Album of the Year, ‘RED’ is loved by fans and critics alike. It debuted at number one with some of the best songs in Swift’s discography. Her following fifth album, ‘1989,’ confirmed her move to pop releases and was widely celebrated. 

Kelly Clarkson – All I Ever Wanted

You might know this album from its singles “Already Gone,” “All I Ever Wanted,” “My Life Would Suck Without You,” and “I Do Not Hook Up.” The Grammy-nominated album debuted at number 1 on the Billboard 200 and received positive reviews from critics after her last album, which was seen as darker and more emotional. She followed All I Ever Wanted with her next album, Stronger, which was a huge hit. 

Ariana Grande – Sweetener

Sweetener was the follow-up to her album, Dangerous Woman. It brought singles, “No Tears Left to Cry,” “God is a Woman,” and “Breathin’” to fans. Sweetener received positive, universal acclaim and shot to number one on the Billboard 200. Her next album, ‘thank u,next’ solidified her position as the number one woman in pop and the charts. Grande is definitely at the peak of her career right now. 

Artists like Shawn Mendes, Adele, Kesha, and Ed Sheeran will be next to release their fourth album. We’re hopeful they can follow in these stars’ footsteps and avoid the curse.

Although just a theory, there is proof that this curse might be a reality. Artists, like any creatives, get burned out from time to time. However, it’s important to consider the effect that recording and producing this fourth album might have on them. We look forward to seeing how artists continue to tackle this challenge.

Brittany Sims

Entertainment Writer

Brittany is a recent graduate of Temple University where she obtained her Bachelor's Degree in journalism. Before attending Temple, Brittany graduated from Community College of Philadelphia with her Associate's Degree in Liberal Arts. When Brittany is not writing, you can find her fangirling over her favorite celebrities, petting her cat, or online shopping.

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